I love being by the sea. I don’t live by the sea nor did I grow up by the sea but I feel at home by the sea.
I love the wind blowing through my being, the smell of salt and seaweed. I love picking up pebbles and find their shapes and markings grounding, comforting and at times exhilarating and hugely inspiring.
I’ve been known to go into a stone trance…
A few years ago I found a fossilized sea urchin, which had very distinctive markings on one side. I soon came to think of this shape as being a ‘sea shaman’, anthropomorphic, neither fully human nor animal, gender fluid, belonging to the sea and the shore, communing with the elements, the marine wildlife and plants.
And yes, I am aware of the controversial use of the term ‘shaman’, and still, the term stuck. This stone started me off on an ongoing series of sketches, paintings and prints.
Here is a painting in a sketchbook looking at both sides of the fossil.
Seashaman riding a whale
Seashaman surfing, surrounded by sea mammals
One night I had a dream. Of finding another stone, smooth, round, a flint pebble, nearly black, with stark white markings. The stone showed the seashaman figure, surfing, followed by an enormous wave, threatening to engulf them but at the same time I knew that they were able to ride the wave, and were in no danger. Able to ride it out.
This resulted in a series of prints, in which I tried to capture this dream image.
And endless sketches of waves
I started creating sculptures that I would take to the sea and photographed them in a way where their size was unclear in the context of the background. Sculptures that became part of the shore and sea landscape, melding with stones. I would take most of them home again, yet some I would offer to the sea
I researched selkie stories, seal-folk that can take on human shape when they slip out of their sealskin. If somebody finds their skin the selkie no longer is able to change back into their seal shape but have to stay land-bound until they regain their true skin. These stories hardly ever have happy endings.
Here I created a seal-woman with her seal child/pup
And a seal head on the shore
I took one of my owl women to the sea. I photograph her in all sorts of environments, wherever I go, so too at the sea
Recently I started creating otter linoprints.
This is my latest otter linocut, and currently my favourite. The group made me think of three otter-Nornes, contemplating the fate of seafarers and landlocked folk alike. Note the little sailboat on the left…
[Note: the otter group was inspired by a photograph by Brydon Thomason]
And here are two otters, diving, delving through the water. I am fascinated by the playfulness and underwater acrobatics of otters, their agility and ability to lithely twist and twirl.
The otters above are delving amongst some kelp plants. I find kelp incredibly beautiful in their own way, undulating in the currents. I fell in love with kelp in a big way watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, ‘The Green Seas’.
There is a correlation between sea otters, kelp forests and sea urchins, with sea otters feeding on sea urchins, which are able to destroy kelp on a massive scale when left unchecked; healthy kelp forests in turn contribute to absorbing vast amounts of carbon for photosynthesis and helping global environmental health.
I love the idea of sea otters being the guardians of kelp forests.
Below is a polystyrene print of an otter diving for sea urchins surrounded by kelp plants and a jellyfish. I am not sure whether jellyfish co-exist with otters, sea urchins and kelp in the same time-space continuum but I think they work together very nicely on a visual level. Artistic license and all that…
Otters also wrap themselves (and their young) in strands of kelp rooted in the ocean floor, anchoring themselves so they won’t drift away on the ocean current.
Years ago I came across a photograph of a group of kelp plants, photographed from below, their stems and leaves growing and reaching upwards, suffused with sunlight, floating through the water surface. Their floating shapes somehow reminded me of the Nike of Samothraki, which has been displayed in the Louvre in Paris since 1884 (with ongoing petitions to have her returned to Samothraki); she is one of my favourite sculptures ever. If you don’t know her, do look her up…
I created various versions of a Kelp Nike of Samothraki. See one of them below. I might return to this subject matter again another time.
So… the sea, the element of water, marine creatures and plants; this is one ongoing thread in my creative work. I find I do not work in a linear way, I do not do ‘projects’ that I follow through to a specific end. I have themes that I dip into, immerse myself and then come back to, sometimes after many years.
I could create threads similar to the sea-inspired one above on many subjects I have been pursuing. Owls and owlwomen. Bears. Goddesses. Ganesha, tantric deities, yantras. Not to forget Hookland (and I have been known to drop everything else for a while when a quote by Hookland’s C.L. Nolan or Emily Banting captures my imagination).
Labyrinths would be another thread…
The image below shows the first labyrinth I ever built, made up of stones gathered on the beach. No doubt it was swept away by the next tide. At times I wonder whether the blueprint remains and whether sea creatures swim and wander this labyrinth at high tide
And possibly Owlwoman is there, too
I’ll conclude with an image of the last labyrinth I built, which was on the same beach as my first labyrinth. And: this also is the location where I found the fossilized sea urchin that started the journey outlined above in the first place.
I have a background in sculpture (I studied Sculpture in the 80s in Germany) and Theatre Design (Central St. Martins) but did not take well to formal art education. I am happiest when I am able to be creative in a playful and experimental state without any fixed ideas or expectations of outcome.
At the core of my art is a strong connection to nature; the spirits of animals and plants, landscape, stones, the sea and the elements. My art is about pattern recognition, weaving dreams, stories and images into a whole.
1 Keith Seatman : The Hang Bird 2 Alberto : New Life 3 The Soulless Party : Blackberry Ghost 4 Adderall Canyonly : The Unburdened Present 5 Stephen Prince : I Have Brought A Myriad Fractures And Found Some Form Of Peace (1879) 6 A.M. Boys : And Yet 7 NCHX : TEFLONTUAN 8 Drew Mulholland : NESS 11 – Master V1 (16-44100) 9 Animals against Humans : Bewitchers 10 Wizards Tell Lies : Ash Falls 11 Drew Mulholland : NESS 5 – Master V1 (16-44100) 12 Kemper Norton : trvnce rd 13 Syrenomelia : A Rose Shattered
Big thanks to Castles in Space, Alrealon Musique, A Year in the Country, and to all the wonderful artists and their truly extraordinary music!
Thank you for inquiring about Lordess Foudre. Here we can casually discuss the personal details and lifestyle of an online artist, and feel free of shame, lack of integrity, or doubt. Slow zoom on Lordess Foudre sitting at her computer desk, ethereal music fades in as she turns around and smiles into the camera, then freeze frame with the title, “Friend of Humanity”. Then fade to black, and then without you being able to see or hear it, Lordess Foudre turns back towards the camera with glowing red eyes and cackles alone in an empty room, and then talks about how much she loves political candidates who you hate, then voices her support for the wrong social movements, then happily says incorrect scientific beliefs before turning back to her computer, to create new art pieces borne out of a love for humanity. And not a naive or childlike love, but a love of humanity forged in the deepest and darkest depths, a humanity that chooses to rise through coarse stone to seize the light of hope. She creates art pieces in the hopes that she can help to give tangible form to our higher ideals, so that we can better see the bridge leading upwards, a bridge we may one day have the ability to create. Lordess Foudre has chosen to live, and to one day die, creating and laying those metaphysical planks.
JUSTIFY YOUR EXISTENCE BELOW
Judge, jury, and executioner of thoughts *
I have no idea what I saw, now listen to me tell you what I saw for six hours straight *
It will make your life so much easier and faster *
I was extremely sleep deprived, and started automatically making a piece of art out of habit, but this time I gave myself over completely to whatever dream-space my ideas and words normally come from. I didn’t stop to think, refine or reinterpret the raw messages coming from whatever vituperative energy I’ve been sensing lately. So, here is the closest thing to automatic writing I’ve ever created. Looking at it now, with sober mind, I do believe the invidious aphorisms are ironic, and the poetry is sincere. The imagery comes from my radioactive dreams
Sterilized for the Internet *
I want to play in a film as an introverted villain who secretly wants to become a hero *
The supreme leader will now read today’s superchats *
It’s a lot easier to be at your best when you’re not bending over backwards to keep other people at their worst
Should your updates be automatically installed and I’m not included in the latest version, may the memory of our time together remain embedded somewhere deep in your framework
I WAS BANNED IRL FOR YOUR SINS ONLINE – Virtual Martyr Simulator 2099 ❤ Tap ‘Like’ to pierce me with the spear of Longinus, post a selfie of it, make me look righteous. MY BODY JUST UNFOLLOWED MY SOUL, descended into the Darkweb eternal black hole, J/K LOL, Death was just a 3 Day Trial & now I’ve unlocked my mission, Resurrection 2: Game of the Year Edition
Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is a contemporary folk horror tale rich in atmosphere and feeling.
“Something strange has been unleashed in the north of England. A modern-day druid commits a series of ghastly murders in an attempt to unleash the awesome power of the ancient gods of Great Britain. But all hell really breaks loose when his latest would-be victim, Nicnevin “NISSY” Oswald, turns out to be more than she seems…”
Wyrd Daze presents a preview of the comic and an interview with the author, Helen Mullane.
Funnily enough Nicnevin was one of the later elements of the story to fall into place.
Inspired by Jenny Agutter’s character in I Start Counting, and the more modern Fish Tank I started out with the main character, Nissy. I love this idea of a young girl with a crush, who gets drawn into something beyond her ken because of it but who’s not actually particularly interested in the mystery at hand until it hits too close to home. That felt quite real to me.
Then I knew I wanted to set the story in a place that had its own myths and legends to draw from, I was obsessed with Alan Garner as a child and the sense of place in his books is something I really wanted to emulate. So I researched ancient myths from all around the UK until I found these hillforts of Northumberland – Yeavering Bell, Eildon Hill and Traprain Law. There are loads of fascinating theories about what they meant to the ancient Votadini tribes who inhabited that area of the borderlands before the Romans came. From there I researched other local legends and discovered that stories of Nicnevin were extremely potent round that region. I’m very interested in goddesses and creatures who were either demonised or beatified by the early Christians and she has wonderful iconography and unusual powers. So then eventually I settled on that myth!
What were the themes you wanted to explore in this story?
Thematically what I am most interested in this story is isolation, romantic obsession and exploring a young girl coming into her own. A lot of the comic is quite kitchen sinky, I wanted to explore this very real and raw family drama as a mother and daughter continuously misunderstand each other, and are having trouble cementing their relationship or showing love.
The comic has an impressive creative team which includes Dom Reardon, Jock, Matthew Dow Smith and Lee Loughridge – what was it like for you to see your words brought to life by these veteran artists?
It was surreal and beautiful! Jock’s cover is so stunning, he’s truly managed to boil down the essence of the story.
I originally conceived of this story as a kids TV show in the vein of The Owl Service, and it was Dom who suggested I write it as a comic instead. He also loves folk horror and has wanted to draw something like this for a long time. It was wonderful working with someone who gets my references, and with whom I can shorthand Children of the Stones or Hammer’s The Witches. It’s so inspiring seeing your ideas and words reborn through the prism of Dom’s incredible artistic brain. His work enriches the story at every frame and even in the gutters!
Then the story was so deeply enriched by Matthew’s artistry, Lee’s colours, Robin’s letters and Jock’s astounding cover, each new contribution leaving the book better than they found it.
Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is being released by the legendary publisher Humanoids as part of their H1 shared universe – can you tell us how you became involved in this project?
Dom and I pitched Nicnevin to Humanoids before H1 had been announced. I had chatted to Alex (Humanoids COO) previously through Pat Mills about something totally unrelated and that happily put us high on the slush pile. Alex read my scripts (I had the whole thing written before we ever pitched) and loved Dom’s spec pages and we took it from there!
Will you be returning to the world of Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen?
I would love to! I guess a lot depends on how this book sells. I have a concept which is already baked into the narrative and seeming ephemera of The Bloody Queen which I’d love the chance to explore. My idea is for a series of generational sequels that move through the maternal line. A book about Nissy’s mum at 15 in 1990, then her own mum at the same age. I’m fascinated by how the experiences and traumas of our parents are passed down through the generations, and how Nissy’s experiences as a black woman especially differ from those that came before her.
To what extent does a sense of place affect your writing?
To a huge extent! Atmosphere and location are the starting point for my writing, especially on a book like this where I am trying to evoke something so specific. Preparing to write this comic I immersed myself in music, TV and movies that had the tone I wanted to convey, when I was doing my day job I was listening to Hacker Farm and other atmospheric music, I spent hours looking at and reading about the places I was setting the story – although in the end I took some artistic license to make the story work.
I love to see locations as characters within the story. In this story the countryside is such an important element. It is slowly encroaching on the characters all the time. The bastle and the country pile that key characters live in are full of detail that can tell the reader a lot about their inhabitants.
In what ways can myth and folklore inform our understanding of the world?
Myth and folklore are our most primal ways of understanding the world. I feel like we understand them on the deepest levels, they express something of our collective id. It’s fascinating how folklore changes and how it stays the same from nation to nation, culture to culture. I’m especially fascinated by the ways in which the Christianisation of the western world involved co-opting, criminalising or demonising the myths and religions of the peoples they converted.
You spent some time as a film producer and produced the excellent documentary Future Shock! The story of 2000AD alongside Sean Hogan. Can you tell us about some of your experiences while working on the film?
Yes making that film was a wild ride at times! There were too many memorable moments to count but certainly one of the most stellar was our interview with Pat Mills. The 2000AD founder and storytelling legend was unbelievably generous with his time. The uncut interview was almost 9 hours long! He had so many incredible stories and is such a force of nature – we were all totally hero struck! It was during that interview that not only did we all have a rollicking good time, but we knew that we really had something, this was going to be a fascinating film.
On a personal level I have a couple more standout moments, one was totally bonding with Grant Morrison over a shared love of Alan Garner, Children of the Stones and other classic weird kids horror and fantasy. Then, when the director Paul and I did a roadtrip to interview various legends around the UK, we stayed the night in Jock’s home town and went to the pub (of course). That night I had what turned out to be a fateful conversation with Dom Reardon, in which I outlined my idea for The Bloody Queen and he told me that if I wrote it as a comic instead of a TV series he would draw it. And the rest, as they say, is history!
What are some of your favourite/most memorable 2000AD stories?
(for me, as well as the classic Dredd and Slaine stories, I have fond memories of John Smith’s Revere with art by Simon Harrison, Dan Abnet’s Durham Red: Scarlet Cantos with art by Mark Harrison, and Alan Grants Anderson: Psi Division – Childhood’s End in Judge Dredd Megazine with art by Kev Walker being a particular highlight).
My absolute favourite 2000AD story is probably The Ballad of Halo Jones, the story touches me deeply and it is a tragedy that it will never be finished. Like you, I also love both Grant and Wagner’s work on various Judge Anderson Psi: Division stories. I’m drawn to stories with female protagonists. Whether they are just living their lives, or trying to comes to terms with trauma, I like to see women’s journeys in sci-fi spaces.
Other favourites are Slaine (of course, so relevant to my interests!), the ultimate Judge Dredd story, America and Nemesis.
I understand that you’re working on your next comic – what is it about and when can we expect it?
I’m pitching out a few stories and the moment, hoping one sticks – I guess that’s the name of the game this early in my comic writing career! I am particularly passionate about an acid-drenched erotic adventure story inspired by Manson, Filmore Posters and The Moody Blues, and a pro-choice bit of southern gothic horror steeped in old school Catholic Mary worship. Both stories are pretty wild and I’m really hoping someone bites!
Are there any current comics that you are particularly enjoying?
Oh hell yeah. We are living through a comics golden age right now, there is so much interesting work out there! Recent favourites include Infidel, The Savage Shores, Pretty Deadly, Friendo, Auteur and My Favourite Thing is Monsters. Some of the many current monthlies I’m loving are Snotgirl, Black Stars Above and Gideon Falls.
Even in the superhero space – a former obsession of mine that I have totally fallen off in recent years, there’s some fascinating work out there. The Martian Manhunter series has been a wonderfully weird and rewarding read, The Vision had such deep pathos, Mister Miracle really pushed the limits of what a superhero comic can be and Ms. Marvel has been quite remarkable for years now.
You currently live in Sweden, training and racing sled dogs with one of Europe’s top mushers Petter Karlsson and his wife Angela. How did you come to embark upon this adventure, and what is it like?
Bizarre though it sounds this is an adventure I kind of fell into. After Futureshock completed, I had a series of things all come together at once that were very exciting but that ultimately left me totally drained. I felt like I needed a bit of a sabbatical before I could move on to the next thing. A year earlier my friend and I had gone on holiday to Norway and had tried dog sledding. I remembered it being just the most fun. So on a total whim I emailed the company I’d toured with if they needed any workers for the remainder of the winter, I had an idea that to toil in the earth was the thing that would bring me back to myself, and to my surprise they said yes! So 2 hours later I got the job offer and 2 weeks later I was in Tromso!
I had no intention of making a career of dog sledding, it was just supposed to be a little adventure to bring the excitement into my life again and shake off the cobwebs. But I soon discovered that I really thrive through physical labour, it’s so good for my spirit and my mind. I love the peace and tranquillity, as well as the toughness of the work. So 3 months turned into 10, then another season and another. Once I discovered the world of competitive dog mushing it was game over! In 2016 I moved to Sweden to work for Petter Karlsson and things really started to get serious. Now I am deeply invested in the world of long distance and my dream is to get to a place where I can have my own competitive team and write comics in a little cabin in the woods and that’s it, I’m done.
You completed the Femundlöpet 400km in 2018 and the 650km in 2019… did you compete this year as well?
That 650 was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. The physical exertion, the sleeplessness… it was savage. But at the same time it was beautiful. Watching the sun rise over the mountains, miles from anyone when you’ve just been teetering on the edge of exhaustion is the type of transcendent experience that lifts the soul. And the dogs! The mutual respect, pride and closeness you share with your team at the end of a race like that truly brings a tear to the eye. That race was recorded by RTE radio for their Documentary on One show, and will hopefully be released in the next couple of months – people can check my twitter if they’re interested in listening when it comes out.
This year I might compete in the Beaver Trap Trail in Sweden in March. A relatively short 250km race. I didn’t want to take on a truly long race with NTBQ coming out in the middle of the season because a race like that really takes over your life.
Is there anything else on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
Not really! At the moment I’m trying to do whatever I can to make The Bloody Queen a success, and am working hard to get the next thing underway. I’m working on a short film with a good friend of mine, which I am super excited about but can’t really say any more about just now.
Helen Mullane began her career in film distribution, managing the release of major films for the likes of Studio Canal and EOne. Later she produced the feature documentary FUTURESHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD and various shorts such as the multi-award-winning NASTY. Helen currently resides in northern Sweden where she lives with 80 huskies, balancing her time between writing and dog mushing. In NICNEVIN AND THE BLOODY QUEEN, Mullane, acclaimed artists Dom Reardon and Matthew Dow Smith, and celebrated colorist Lee Loughridge have created a haunting and unsettling coming-of-age horror story for our times.